Teflon lubricants may spell trouble

Don’t pass up the shallow-water rigs on your way offshore. Instead, load the boat with hard-fighting and tasty spadefish.

One of the things I enjoy most about writing columns is the feedback I get from the readers. Many times readers will share with me tips and hints that can be very helpful.In the past two months I have written about repairing and replacing steering systems. The first column was about cleaning and lubricating a steering system that has become frozen due to corrosion. One of my regular customers sent me an e-mail with some hints about steering maintenance, which I would like to share with you.

“Your last two columns in Louisiana Sportsman about steering systems have been interesting and timely for me. Thanks.

“There is one factor we learned that was not mentioned — don’t use a lube containing Teflon.

“You may remember, I called and asked you about fixing the jammed steering on my boat. Unfortunately, there was a multi-week wait for service, so we did it ourselves. A little heat with a hair dryer, and the system came loose. We were able to open the cable at both ends of the tilt tube, and work on cleaning and lubricating.

“What we discovered were many little ‘soft balls’ in the system about the size of No. 9 shot. When mashed on the deck by finger, they crumbled. We concluded these were probably the result of some kind of lubricant containing Teflon.

“For some reason, lubricants containing Teflon are bad news when used in a water environment. We had discovered this fact previously when Teflon lubricants were the rage for fishing reels. When the stuff contacts water, it turns into glue. The pawl on level-wind reels was the first clue. I had to clean all the lube off and use another oil.

“Teflon washers in drag systems work well, but my son lost a bonefish due to using a lube containing Teflon on the spinning reel drag. The ‘turn to glue’ factor came into play, and the drag froze during the fight.

“When they came out, I got a couple of reels that had a new-design, free-floating level wind. The pawl disengaged from the line guide in the cast mode, so the line guide floated from left to right with the line coming off the spool. A good design, but it didn’t work after some use. The reel manufacturer discontinued this reel.

“I phoned them, and they confirmed they used a lube with Teflon. I still have two of these reels, and they work just fine. All I did was take the reels apart, wash the factory lube off, and use a lube with no Teflon.

“We no longer use lubricants containing Teflon. However, I used a certain lube on the steering system. I could not find out if it contained Teflon after the steering jammed. The bottle gave no number or address for the company, and did not say the ingredients. We did not know if that lube or the lube used by the steering manufacturer was the culprit.

We have switched to a lubricant that we know does not contain any Teflon, and the steering has been working fine.”

I have known this customer for many years, and when it comes to boating and fishing, he is very serious. He cites several examples where Teflon lubricants seem to have caused problems. Unfortunately, his examples do not exactly qualify as scientific testing.

While I cannot endorse his conclusions, I can say that in the future I will be more aware of what additives are in the lubricants that I use. If anyone knows of any scientific testing that has been done regarding this subject, I would appreciate an e-mail on the subject.

Until we find out differently I would recommend that you use only the highest quality lubricants for your rig. Usually lubricants packaged and marketed by your boat’s engine manufacturer are a safe bet to be of the highest quality. That stuff that you find in the super discount stores may or may not be quality.

Just remember good oils and greases are extremely cheep when compared to the cost of a new engine.

If you have any questions about your boat, motor or trailer, you can e-mail me at hanktheboatdr@yahoo.com. For complete contact information, check my web site: www.theboatdr.com.